Our "In Conversation" series features long-form interviews with visionaries and change-makers

It won’t come as a surprise to most to hear that the Trump administration has completely dropped the ball on their response to the covid pandemic. The misinformation campaign, lack of empathy, and outright failure of this administration to address the dangers and impacts of covid are jaw-dropping.


But it’s not just a matter of this particular administration. In his new book “The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,” Richard Wolff, a professor of economics and founder of Democracy at Work, outlines how the root cause of the failure to adequately respond to this pandemic is rooted in our economic system itself — capitalism.


We spoke with Richard Wolff about how the Trump administration and our current economic system are both responsible for the disastrous response that the United States has shown in the face of such a major disaster. We go over how other countries have responded, how the United States could have done things differently, why capitalism is doomed to fail us, and how restructuring our economic system towards one that is more collective and cooperative could address many of the issues that we are facing today. Read the full transcript here.

The idea of Silicon Valley means many things to many people. The most prominent associations with this region and culture probably have to do with the tech industry — but that’s not the whole story. Not even close. There’s a dark side to Silicon Valley that doesn’t always make it into mainstream conversations and popular assumptions. Beneath the image there is a stark reality.

In this Upstream Conversation, we spoke with Wendy Liu, an author and Silicon Valley insider turned critic. Her debut book, Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology From Capitalism, is a memoir and a manifesto on how to transform the tech industry from the hypercapitalist culture of inequality, gentrification, and greed that it is to something more equitable, accessible, and supportive of the real disruptions we need today. You can read the full transcript here.

What if you got your neighbors together and occupied the public spaces on your book, transforming them into whatever you would all want it to be? What would you include? ...A solar-paneled tea station? A little free library? A mural? This is the type of urban placemaking that the City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon inspires and facilitates.

In this Upstream Conversation, we spoke with Mark Lakeman an urban place-maker, permaculture designer, and community facilitator who co-founder of The City Repair Project. In the last decade, he has directed, facilitated, or inspired designs for more than three hundred new community-generated public places in Portland, Oregon alone.

We spoke with him while he was visiting Santa Cruz about the capitalist history of the Urban Grid and how to reclaim our streets, revive community, and belong once more to place.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a journalist and researcher who uses systems thinking to support the just transition to a more equitable and sustainable future.

We contacted him after we came across his article, "White Supremacism and the Earth System," connecting the worldview that underpins capitalism to the racism that the Black Lives Matter movement is working to address, as well as the climate chaos and environmental devastation that we are experiencing globally.

In this conversation, we spoke about why systems thinking is a useful practice, the connection between capitalism and white supremacy, and the great potential we are in for a global phase shift to a post-capitalist world.

Nafeez is the executive director of the System Shift Lab and a research fellow at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems. He currently writes for VICE and he is the author of "A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save it," and "Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence."

Continuing our focus on the coronavirus pandemic and its intersection with capitalism, in this Conversation, we spoke with London-based economic anthropologist Jason Hickel. Jason in the author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions,

Jason’s new book, “Less is More,” is being published in August by Penguin. We spoke with him about international capitalism during the pandemic, new opportunities for degrowth economics, and how to fundamentally move to a post capitalist world — which will take more than just a shift in economic policy, but a fundamental shift from the world view of capitalist thought. 

You can read the transcript of the full interview here.

More interviews from our "In Conversation" series 

In this episode, we’re bringing you a special solstice // New Year's conversation. Upstream host Della Duncan comes out from interviewer's chair to be in conversation with two other baddass womxn podcast hosts — Manda Scott (Accidental Gods) and Nathalie Nahai (The Hive) to debrief all that has been 2020 and to look ahead to what is possible and potentially emerging in 2021.

Nathalie is the host of The Hive Podcast, exploring our relationship with technology, one another and the natural world. She is also an international speaker and author of Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion.

Manda Scott is the host of Accidental Gods, looking at the liminal space between science and spirituality, philosophy, politics, and creativity – working towards the conscious evolution of humanity. She’s also the award-winning author of the Boudica novels, a screenwriter, and a political activist.